The Strength to Learn

I don’t engage in deep political discussions too often because, basically, I don’t want to look stupid. I’m not a buffoon; I can generally speak to the current state of affairs and have a good idea where I stand on most issues and why. But when trying to follow conversations with political analysis prodigies who can drop names, dates, cite statistics and have an esoteric but completely poignant quote from a 19th century philosopher on the ready, I come off looking like Barney Fife.

But I recently had a debate with a close friend that had me clearing my throat and shuffling my debate papers. In a tiny nutshell, we disagreed on a chain email she had sent me. And because I initially had the privilege of arguing in my preferred form of a written response, (you get a moment to clear your head and do some research) I dove in.  

For the record, my friend and I bat for different political teams. We have some messy boundaries, but it’s pretty clear we’re voting quite differently behind the little curtain. And for two people who don’t often engage in conversations that reveal that blatant and potentially conflicting difference between us, I would say that we handled our debate with grace. Ok, so we’ve been friends for 27+ years and our sons and husbands play well together. But to our credit, I think it has more to do with our ability, and flexibility, to keep it smart and respectful. Of course, this speaks to how incredibly wise and cool we are.

The art of debating, at every level, seems endangered. I realize now that the debate class required for my major taught me some of the best lessons in life. If you’re going to run off your mouth, you better have something legitimate to stand on, even if it’s wobbly. Consider your sources and pick good ones. Don’t go off on vaguely related tangents or you will lose your audience. Speak only to the degree that you know your shit, or it will quickly become apparent that you are lost. And if you want to maintain some integrity, no personal attacks.

But as I have noticed on message boards and in comments to other bloggers (as well as from my own Feral Cat Controversy) no one follows those rules. We would rather remain inflexible. Stick to your agenda regardless of any new information to the contrary. Continue to swamp message boards with the same point repeated eight different ways. (yes, we heard you…stop typing) Attack the character of the person who god forbid, disagrees with you. Say things you’re too chicken to say out from under the safe guise of your username.

Now, I’m not claiming to be the most well-mannered arguer. I’ve stooped, oh yes. But it WAS nice to disagree with a friend because neither one of us spit out extremist dialogue. We were willing to listen. We may not have convinced each other but I did learn a few things. I did critically rethink how and why I stand where I do. It’s always nice to exercise the old rationale.

Ultimately, It’s hard for me to listen to anyone who is extremely anything…right, left, religious, angry, happy, hippy, or horny, because they allow the extreme to define who they are as a person and what comes out of their mouth. I like continuum scales. I like blends and shades and complicated layers. I respect people who are strong enough to change their minds.

So I may risk revealing my political weaknesses and start to engage in more debates. Because the flexible and willing to learn are sorely misrepresented out there.  

Writing out of Anger

I immediately felt remorse after posting Taking Candy from Babies because I feared I would offend some people whom I love dearly. I do not regret sending the message that refined sugar is simply terrible for our children and that as a society, we’re not monitoring it as closely as we should be. I do regret the choice to attack. Its not exactly the best teaching method.

A wise man once told me, when you write out of anger, you limit your audience. The reader immediately becomes defensive, even if they agree with you to some degree, because you are talking to them. And I know that if I am busy being defensive, I learn little to nothing. 

A couple of people whose advice I respect have wondered why I was so angry. True, no one has outright accused me of “depriving my son of love” because I’ve denied him treats. But food is an emotional issue for lots of us. It represents a lot about our lives; daily routine, nurturing, guilt, comfort, control… it encompasses too much and it was overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start. I started with anger.  

Then again, with anger comes change. We rarely make adjustments when we’re content. And I wouldn’t write a word if I always had to worry about who I will offend. Unfortunately for my writing career, I do not function well if I think someone is mad at me. Goes back to my junior high years.

So I’ll just have to find the right balance when spouting off about any of my crusades. Finding balance has always been a challenge for me. I’ll continue to write about food and mood and kids and nutrition because those topics fascinate me. And I’ll start with some anger because its real. But I will work on a kinder, gentler delivery. Bear with me.    


what the hell is a meadow frolic anyway?

I am not having a midlife crisis. But I must confess that I am currently not frolicking in any meadows. Mostly because there is 2 feet of ugly, slushy, dirty snow on the ground with another 6″ in the way. This winter sucks ass.

Anyway, I am taking suggestions for a new title. Something that suggests midlife doesn’t have to be a crisis. You are not allowed to use the words “introspection”, “rumination”, “musing”, or “reflections (puke)”. It can be cynical, but it must be witty.

If I choose your suggestion, I will write an ode to you and your superior brain.

Mental Masturbation

 I received an email from a friend today in which she stated, “I can’t see why-in-the-world 99.99% of blogs exist – total mental masturbation”.

She obviously doesn’t know I started a blog. I doubt that knowledge would keep her from sharing her views anyway, she’s refreshingly honest. But I was really grateful to her for the excellent title. This won’t be the last time she puts an idea in my head.   

She’s right though. I agree with her 99.99%. Like masturbation, personal blogs exist for self-gratification purposes. It strokes my ego to see my words on the Internet, rather than tucked away in a lost file on my hard drive. I invest my time in this guilty pleasure because I feel satisfied at the end of a particularly good paragraph. This is my time to purge pent-up mental frustrations and unsolicited advice. I am excited by an activity that stimulates my brain and perks up a cerebral libido has been sluggish for a long time.  

And like masturbation, I sneak in some words when alone. When my husband has fallen asleep early on the couch. I run upstairs during an episode of Curious George to rub out a few lines. I’m getting away with something selfishly naughty.

If masturbation can improve your sex life with a partner, blogging does the same for a writer. I am using and abusing Word Press to hone my rough writing skills. I will work out the kinks here before I pounce into the publishing bedroom with prowess. 

With practice, I might become the .01% that SHOULD exist. Who doesn’t want to get paid for satisfying themselves?

So unless I go blind, I will continue my blog. Even if its existence is purely for my pleasure. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little mental foreplay….   

Welcome to it….

Ever since I was little, I have loved to write. I am not the best writer on the block, but I seriously enjoy doing it. I was the only graduate student in my Masters program who was pissed that we had comprehensive exams with no option to write a thesis. I was the student who had a problem editing 20 pages down to the required 10. If you were one of those students who had a hard time turning your 5-6 pages into 10, you hated me.

There are multiple reasons as to why I’ve started this blog. I recently had an argument with one of my closest friends, with whom I usually communicate through emails. I literally spent hours formulating and editing my thoughts, choosing words carefully, selecting areas in which to be personally vulnerable while still effectively showing my anger. It was a labor of love. I have not stayed up until 1 a.m. since my son was a sleep-challenged toddler. My husband watched this process and wondered aloud what would happen if I put all this energy into writing elsewhere.

The argument subsided, and my friend and I returned to exchanging our normally dark-humored, but still lengthy emails. My husband’s comment rattled inside my head. I started making little lists of subject matter, random notes of title ideas. Little life events became titles. Then last weekend, my brother, unaware of my stirring intentions to start writing, showed me the Word Press blog he uses for work. It was a sign. I am a firm believer of signs.

There were other glaring, neon signs, but these are broken down into titles on scratch paper next to my grocery list, and will be saved for another blog on another day.

So what can you expect to see in my ramblings? I am a woman, so you will see some female musings. Or downright bitching. Don’t worry, I won’t go into depth about my menses or my womb. I am a parent, so to leave out my sometimes bittersweet, sometimes brutal thoughts on parenting (mine and others) would be a crime. I am currently very interested in the state of our children’s nutrition, or lack thereof, in this country and seem to be developing a personal crusade to change how kids eat. I also love to cook, so look here for some recipes, tips on feeding your family, or cheesy kitchen – life metaphors. I am also a wife, so I’ll talk marriage but I won’t bash my husband. Unless, of course, he is lauging WITH me. I will talk at length any day about mental health and therapy, problems with the current mental health system, interpersonal relationships, communication problems, gender issues, current events, nutrition and diet, education and working with children. And expect me to be blunt.

What not to expect? In-depth political discussion. I have a few thoughts to share, but I’m not the most well-spoken in politics. I know, how irresponsible of me, but its just not my language. I will talk about counseling and mental health guidance, but don’t expect personal therapy here. Don’t expect hardcore feminism, but don’t expect June Cleaver either. And don’t come here to save my soul with Christianity, but if you want to tell me how to be more Zen, I’m all ears.

I’m also from Wisconsin, so don’t expect me to talk about the Packer game yet….it’s still too raw…(sniff).

Ok…I have a lot to say and am looking forward to saying it. Stay tuned…..